Tag Archives: Grammy Award

Jew of the Week: Bob Dylan

First Musician to Win a Nobel Prize

Bob Dylan in 1963

Bob Dylan in 1963

Robert Allen Shabbatai Zisl Zimmerman (b. 1941) was born in Minnesota, the grandchild of Ukrainian- and Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. Listening to the radio as a child, Zimmerman fell in love with music. In high school, he formed a number of bands, mostly doing covers of Elvis Presley. While studying at the University of Minnesota, Zimmerman regularly performed at clubs and coffeehouses near the campus, introducing himself as “Bob Dylan” (after the poet, Dylan Thomas). He soon dropped out of school and moved to New York City. It only took about a year for him to get signed by Columbia Records. Though his first album didn’t do very well, and he was nearly dropped from the record label, Dylan’s second album fared much better. With this album, Dylan showed that he was not only a musician and songwriter, but a talented poet as well. The Beatles described his music as “incredibly original and wonderful”. By 1963, Dylan was tremendously popular, and had become an important part of the civil rights movement, too. He went on to produce an unbelievable 37 albums (so far), selling 120 million copies. His “Like a Rolling Stone” was listed as the greatest song of all time on multiple occasions, and his hand-written lyrics for this song recently sold at an auction for a record $2 million. His 2009 album made him the oldest artist ever to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Since 1988, Dylan has been on a “Never Ending Tour”, consistently performing around 100 concerts every year, and continuing to perform regularly to this day. Dylan also wrote a novel, published six books of his drawings and paintings, as well as a bestselling autobiography that was nominated for the National Book Award. He has won twelve Grammy Awards, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last week, it was announced that he received the Nobel Prize for Literature – the first musician to do so. It has been said that Dylan inspired countless musicians “from Mick Jagger to Eminem”, while President Obama once admitted that “There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.” TIME Magazine placed him on the list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. Many have argued that Dylan’s lyrics should be studied in schools, and indeed, courses on Bob Dylan are now offered at a number of universities around the world.

Chag Sukkot Sameach!

Words of the Week

Most people worry about their own bellies, and other people’s souls, when we all ought to be worried about our own souls, and other people’s bellies.
– Rabbi Israel Salanter

Bob Dylan at his son Jesse's bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 1983

Bob Dylan at his son Jesse’s bar mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, 1983

Jew of the Week: Lalo Schifrin

Lalo Schifrin

Lalo Schifrin

Boris Claudio Schifrin (b. 1932) was born in Argentina. His father was a professional violinist and concertmaster, and introduced his son to music at a very young age. Schifrin grew up studying under the tutelage of several great composers and conductors. He composed his first piece, inspired by a passage in the Torah, at the age of 15 for his local synagogue. Although he briefly studied law, Schifrin pursued his passion in music and went on to study at the Paris Conservatory. He returned home to start his own jazz orchestra that was soon featured weekly on TV in Buenos Aires. In 1958, Schifrin was offered a job in New York and made the big move. Several years later, MGM offered him the chance to work on a film score. He won his first Emmy Award for Best TV Theme soon after. Schifrin went on to write theme songs and scores for over 160 films and television series, including Dirty Harry, the Rush Hour trilogy, and Planet of the Apes. His score for The Exorcist was so frightening that the director had to scrap it from the film. Undoubtedly, the most famous of his songs is the theme from Mission: Impossible, now considered among the greatest theme songs of all time, and the most widely recognized around the world. It has been popular for nearly 5 decades since Schifrin first composed it in 1966. A U2 remake in 1996 sold 500,000 copies and reached #7 on the Billboard 100. Besides TV and film, Schifrin produced more than 50 musical albums, and composed over 60 orchestral works. For his work, he has been nominated for 6 Oscars and 21 Grammys, of which he has won 4. Despite being an octogenarian, he is still working on film scores and runs his own label, Aleph Records. Schifrin also has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Words of the Week

… the reason imagination is more important than knowledge is because imagination turns out to be the vehicle by which we increase knowledge. And so, if you don’t have imagination, you’re not going to get more knowledgeable.
– Dr. Sylvester James Gates, Jr.

Jew of the Week: Benny Goodman

The King of Swing – America’s First Rock Star

Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman

Benjamin David Goodman (1909-1986) was born in Chicago, the son of a Polish-Jewish father and Lithuanian-Jewish mother, immigrants who met in the U.S. Goodman took his first music lessons when he was 10 years old at the local synagogue. By 12, he made his professional debut (playing the clarinet) at Chicago’s Central Park Theater. At 16 he made his first recordings with the Ben Pollack Orchestra. He would go on to play alongside some of the most popular bands and most famous artists of the day. His own band would appear in a number of films, and on national radio. Despite the open racism and segregation of the time, Goodman began working with African-Americans, and is considered the first major American musician to have an interracial band (which meant he had to avoid playing concerts in the Southern states, where interracial bands were illegal). This was a key step in opening the door for more African-Americans to enter the mainstream music industry. By 1935, Goodman was one of the central forces that ushered in the “swing” era. In fact, he would be crowned the “King of Swing” (in addition to the “Rajah of Rhythm” and the “Patriarch of the Clarinet”). He is often credited with inspiring the start of the “dance craze”, and some consider him “America’s first rock star”. In 1962, Benny Goodman made history when he was sent to the USSR – the first American band on Soviet soil. The tour was designed to ease Cold War tensions, and was hailed a great success on both sides after 32 concerts, including for Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. It was a symbolic start of the process of reconciliation between the US and the USSR. Goodman was voted the best clarinetist multiple times, was inducted in the Jazz Hall of Fame, and awarded a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement. His fascinating story was immortalized in a major motion picture, The Benny Goodman Story.

Words of the Week

God would not have preserved our people for so long if we did not have another role to play in the history of mankind.
– Theodor Herzl